- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

POCATELLO, Idaho — Don Aslett may be more than a half-century into his fight against dirt and clutter, but he still can’t take a stroll without bending to pick up litter from the sidewalk.

He can remember as a child cringing at the site of spilled coffee grounds, and in high school finding it strange the other boys didn’t like to clean their rooms. Even now at the age of 76, his battle against grit and grime has yet to relent.

Those who may not understand his devotion, he reasons, have likely never felt the satisfaction of making a toilet bowl shine.

“I’ll tell you, clean is a hard sell,” said Mr. Aslett, who has written 37 books on the topic and founded a janitorial business with branches in most states and Canada.

And now, he has a six-story shrine dedicated to his craft — the Museum of Clean — that recently opened to the public in southeastern Idaho.

Among the exhibits: a horse-drawn vacuum dating back to 1902; a collection of several hundred pre-electric vacuum cleaners; a Civil War-era operating table; a 1,600-year-old bronze pick that was used to clean teeth; and an antique Amish foot bath.

If visitors grow weary while touring the building with its estimated 6,000 historical cleaning devices, they can take a seat on chairs fashioned out of garbage bins, a clawfoot bathtub and a washing machine from 1945.

There’s also an 88-seat theater, an art gallery, and a gift shop with $9.95 children’s cleaning kits and plush toys in the shape of germs. Mr. Aslett’s most prized possession — a 2,000-year-old Roman terra cotta water vessel used for washing — is not quite ready for display and kept locked in a filing cabinet.

The idea for the project came several years ago, when Mr. Aslett came upon an old pre-electric sweeper vacuum at a Detroit museum.

“I thought, well there’s horse museums, cow museums, train museums, plane museums. Why not a clean museum?” he said.

He started his collection with an old pump vacuum he purchased for about $250 and tracked down more items at antique stores, while others were donated. He soon had enough for a display at his office in downtown Pocatello.

“I found out something interesting, people are into cars and food and sports,” he said. “Cleaning is way down on the list. But If you took something as dull as cleaning and made it humorous, then cleaning goes to the top.”

Mr. Aslett started public speaking and writing cleaning handbooks with titles such as: “Is there Life After Housework?” and “Clutter’s Last Stand.” His personal monikers have included the Dean of Clean, Sultan of Shine and Don Juan of the John.

He was featured in People magazine. He’s also been on Oprah. At one point, he started carrying a Fiberglas toilet as a suitcase because he felt that was the symbol of his trade. He also enjoyed the suspense of his fellow travelers as they waited by the baggage carousel to see who would claim it.

The museum, which took six years to assemble at a cost of about $6 million, marked its grand opening last month. Tickets cost $5 per person or $15 for a family.

Inside, the history of clean begins to the right, with a giant model of Noah’s Ark, a reference to the worldwide cleaning of Biblical proportions. To the left are interactive exhibits aimed at teaching kids how to properly make their bed, clean their room, sweep and recycle.

During a recent tour, Mr. Aslett stopped to clean a window display inside a children’s play area. His squeegee glided across glass in a quick flurry of sweeping strokes, like an artist painting a canvas. He leaned back to admire his work.

“That’s how the professionals do it.”

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